How To Write A Technical Report

Writing a technical report is an important way of sharing analytical information with a general set of readers within an organization.

Reports come in all sizes, shapes, and styles. Business reports can be as short as one page or encompass hundreds of pages. Information included in the general business report can cover a wide range of operations, and may be geared to readers inside and outside the company.

A technical report, however, is a little bit different. Often focusing on a specific type of operation or a departmental concern, the technical report attempts to explain a highly technical process in terms the lay reader can understand. Usually it is written for readers within an organization.

Like its cousin the business report, a technical report may begin with an executive summary, a relatively brief section of one or more paragraphs that provides an overview to the report. It probably outlines the problem or focus of the report as well as the methods of addressing it and the outcomes thus far. Many harried business readers may quickly scan the executive summary for a general idea of the report's contents before deciding whether to read the entire document.

The format may separate categories or headings into bolded titles with numerical distinctions using Arabic or Roman numerals. An overview may serve as the first topical point, which outlines the main problem to be addressed as well as the scope of the report. The main objective will be clarified. The next section may use a phrase like methods, principles, procedures, or processes. This section explains how the problem will be attacked, and in what order, with accompanying rationales.

The next section may emphasize personnel needs. Sometimes a temporary or part-time person may need to be hired to address a departmental issue. At other times current employees may be "borrowed" from normal duties to assume additional tasks or a new role altogether. This section merely explains who will do what to accomplish the goal.

A very important section is the budget. This area should carefully list all costs as well as a proposal for meeting them. Current funding may need to be diverted temporarily, or a new line item may have to be established, and approved, for the purpose of meeting an objective. Sources of funding, real or hopeful, should be indicated here as well, along with measures that have already been taken (or will be taken) to confirm funding sources.

Next comes a description of the process that has been or will be undertaken. Technical reports follow a step-by-step approach to describing each procedure that addresses the problem and moves the process toward resolution. Steps may be numbered or have alphabetical listings. Or if they are significant enough, they may have bolded subheadings of their own.

Following this area should be the outcomes or conclusion portion. This section explains what has been (or will be) accomplished, and how that will impact the department specifically and the company or clientele generally.

Charts and graphs add an important dimension to a technical report. Maps, timelines, budget projections, and other kinds of visual aids can help readers understand complex material. These can be inserted throughout the report in strategic locations. Or they may appear at the end as an appendix.

The total report may include a table of contents and an index, among other things, if it is large or important enough to warrant these additions. The central purpose is to help readers understand a challenging overview of a detailed or technical process.

Cruise the Web for free samples of technical reports that can show you various options for organizing needed material. Then add this valuable tool to your repertoire of communication strategies for doing better business.

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